​Dallas Buyers Club granted access to ISP customer details

The Federal Court has ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC's preliminary discovery to be granted access to customer details of several Australian internet service providers in order to send letters for settlement payments over copyright infringement.

A new precedent for online copyright infringement has been set, after the Australian Federal Court on Tuesday ordered several internet service providers (ISPs), including iiNet, to hand over details such as IP addresses, names, and physical addresses of customers who allegedly pirated the Dallas Buyers Club movie.

Justice Nye Perram ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC's preliminary discovery application to seek customer details in order to send letters to 4,900 Australians who illicitly downloaded the Academy Award-winning film over peer-to-peer services during a seven-week period in 2014.

Perram also ordered that letters are only to be sent to alleged pirates under the condition that they are first submitted to the court for approval, with the privacy of individuals to be protected.

As a result of the win, it may likely mean that the Australians caught up in illicitly downloading the movie may soon receive letters from Dallas Buyers Club LLC seeking thousands of dollars in compensation for breach of copyright.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC has already targeted a number of users alleged to have shared the film over file-sharing programs in the United States.

Barrister for Dallas Buyers Club Michael Bradley said it was the outcome the company was seeking, and the next step is to obtain the information of IP address holders and subsequently identify infringers.

"Australia is certainly a jurisdiction with a high rate of unauthorised downloading, and this is the first step from a copyright owner to change that balance," he said.

Bradley added that the ruling sets a precedent for other copyright owners.

The judgment was passed following a long-winded case between Dallas Buyers Club LLC and iiNet, the most recent instalment of which took place in court over three days in February.

iiNet previously warned during the court hearings that the letters would be "threatening" and a "disproportionate" response to the infringement.

The decision comes as Wednesday marks the deadline for Australian internet service providers and rights holder groups to complete negotiations on the copyright infringement code that will see telcos warn customers alleged to have illicitly downloaded films and TV shows.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis have developed a code to crack down on online copyright infringement. The government is planning on imposing new measures to block copyright-infringing websites, and warn users who are alleged to have infringed.

The Australian government also recently passed data-retention legislation that will force telecommunications companies to retain customer "metadata" -- including contact details, the type of communication and service used, and location data -- for two years. Turnbull previously confirmed to ZDNet that while the legislation is only meant to provide access to criminal law-enforcement agencies for the purposes of investigating serious crime, copyright holders could also follow in Dallas Buyers Club LLC's footsteps and take ISPs to court to obtain the data.